"To be African American is to be African without memory and American without privilege."
Coming off of the week of George Floyd's death, today, it is hard to smile. We have to have this conversation, because it is the real reality of myself and many others with melanated skin. The confusion, fear, and utter hopelessness that exists within me is not fair and essentially problematic.
The country of America is so inspiring. The values and liberties that sparked the leave from Britain to build this nation is the reason why many people from other countries rush to build their lives here. However, the realities of what exist in this land is a hard truth to grapple with.
I was born and raised in America. My parents and grandparents were born here. But I feel like an alien in my own home. Though I know I am of African descent; I have no idea where my ancestors originated from. It’s easy to want to believe that “America isn’t my home if they don’t love me”, but that isn’t true. America is my home, because I don’t have anywhere else.
The reality for many Black Americans today is that no matter how many degrees you earn, money you make, or success you rise to; you are seen as a black man/woman first – a threat and an inferior. This is seen every time we are asked to verify our ownership of a luxury item when someone challenges if we stole it. This is seen every time when we are followed in stores. This is seen every day when we have to teach our black children that
even when they are innocent, they have to be complacent and overly respectful to police who show us no respect.
Disturbing, but not surprising. I am fighting the same battles that my parents, grandparents and great grandparents were faced with. The idea of having to defend that we are human. These battles are not new, and they have never stopped. Now, they are just being recorded. The blood of my ancestors are in the soil of this country, and we are still bleeding out today.
It is a luxury to be able to be naïve during these times. The willing blindness that other races show during this time is not only painful, but evil. Even if you don’t have any way to connect with the problems that exist within the Black community, you can show compassion. You can show others how to love despite all else. We have to dismiss the naivety that seeks to not see the problem because it makes you sad or afraid.
Oftentimes, black people are accused of using slavery as a crutch or reason for special treatment. But what happens when you're a victim, and no one believes you? We don’t know what to do that works. Is rioting and looting the solution? Maybe not. But how can you tell someone how to grieve? Why are you surprised when violence is met with violence?
When we begin to look for solutions, we must realize that we have to stop trying to fix racist people, and fix the racist system. Our battle is not against the coffee shop barista with prejudice, but against a system that allows her to call the police who starts making arrests without question. Cultural sensitivity and anti-bias training should be mandatory for every job, and consequences should be enforced when people violate basic human rights. We can change behavior if we change the system.
These are times that make me so thankful that I have my anchor in Jesus Christ. If I didn’t have Him as my unmovable hope, then I honestly don’t know how I could have the courage to wake up and go out into the world another day. It is a scary thought that we have to explain to others why killing us is wrong. America is my home, but it sure doesn’t feel like home.
1 John 4:20 – ‘Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.’
John 13:34 – ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’